First week of Around The World with Mark Beaumont
Day 6 and Mark has already passed through 6 countries, cycled over 1,200miles and consumed over 45,000 calories.
Since leaving Paris on Sunday morning at 04:00, Mark has been flying! The aim of this first week was to take it steady, to gradually build in the mileage over the first 2 weeks in order to cope with the long haul of 80 days. However, thanks to good weather conditions and a light tailwind, he’s been able to exceed the target mileage marginally each day without the additional effort. Any additional miles are always a good mental boost, as the days become more difficult it allows a buffer if we need to add additional rest time or have any unexpected delays.
So the main thing is that the wheels have kept turning and the speed has been up, however, apart from the weather, these first 6 days haven’t been completely plain sailing behind the scenes. We’ve had some major road works to contend with, causing big diversions for vehicles and a bit of a headache for the logistics guys to co-ordinate things on the ‘hoof’. Added to this, on two occasions it has led to us being separated from Mark for short periods of time. Even though he’s a well travelled solo cyclist, this always makes me nervous when he’s not in line of sight incase of puncture or injury etc. He’s been stopped by police 3 or 4 times across Germany, which thankfully Mark was able to resolve, but often it takes a bit of negotiation if they are wishing to escort him off the road.
The route that is mapped out is on fairly flat, straight, fast roads, which at times can mean quite heavy traffic filled roads during rush hours and the size and speed that some of these arctic lorries travel is crazy!
At the end of day 1 Mark presented with Achilles tenosynovitis, which is inflammation of the tissue/ sheath around the Achilles tendon. It had crepitus (crunchy feeling) on tendon gliding, felt warm to touch and thickened. The cause I think was due to altering his foot posture because he was experiencing pressure pain under the ball of his foot, he therefore started to grip with his toes and held his ankle stiff whilst cycling. Treatment was ice, voltarol patch locally, offload taping, compression garment, soft tissue release through the soleus, flexor hallucis longus (big toe flexor) and intrinsics, plus acupuncture. We also changed his orthotics to provide a softer cushioning sole which helped to relax the foot. Thankfully with regular treatment and monitoring, symptoms resolved within 3 days.
The other area which needs daily maintenance is his neck and upper thoracic. Although this is an area that we addressed with training pre-cycle, the neck is going to take some time to adapt to holding 16hrs + of posture. Although these muscles are fairly fatigue resistant in their architecture, holding 16hrs of the same posture will place a great deal of stress on them. During the race of Ride Across America where cyclists are riding for 23 hours a day for 9 days straight, there are often stories of the cyclists losing control of their neck muscles and therefore are unable to hold their head up. They then have to rely on neck braces or equivalent contraptions, in order to take the weight of their head. This is something we want to avoid as riding with a neck brace is neither safe nor sustainable for 80 days. So daily maintenance is in place to offload these muscle groups, plus the option of altering the front end set up of his handles to change the weight distribution and make small biomechanical adjustments.
Behind the scenes, as you may have seen on social media, the support team have also had their own little challenges within the first few days. Alongside racing around to overcome the roadworks/ route changes, Alex walked in to a hatch window in the early hours, so required cleaning up and steri-stripping with a head bandage whilst on the move. Following that, I then got a bout of food poisoning so had to isolate myself for 48 hours. One of the most frustrating things when you set protocols and yet you’re the one that ends up having to follow them L. The worst thing would be for Mark to get ill, so at the end of the day its more important to ensure he’s safe and well than I. Thankfully I had written a list of everything that is done during the sessions and what he requires, so Alex has done an amazing job of keeping Mark well fuelled and nothing changing in his strategy. At the end of the day, none of us are indispensable and we should be able to support each others roles where necessary. I also can’t fault the great teamwork that the crew have shown, every one is pulling together, remaining in great spirits and maybe due to the fact that everyone on the team has experienced a few expeditions themselves, but no hiccup is too big and every challenge is dealt with head on.
So all in all it’s been a rapid start and immersion in to the project. Mark is making great progress and despite some small set backs, he has exceeded his daily mileage targets and is staying smooth and consistent on the roads. Onwards to Russia!
All photos courtesy of Johnny Swanepoel